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Derm 4 Pets • Common Skin Diseases

Common Skin Diseases

Itchiness: One of the most common reasons for owners’ to seek veterinary advice is when their pet suffers from itchy skin. They impede the patients and their owners’ quality of life considerably. Thorough investigation and diagnosis of the disease causing this clinical sign and management of the underlying disease is therefore vital to improve the situation. Itchy pets commonly suffer from allergic skin disease (flea allergy, food allergy, environmental allergy=atopic dermatitis; skin infections or ectoparasite infestations).

Allergies: Up to 30 percent of the pet population are affected by allergic conditions such as fleabite hypersensitivity, food allergy and environmental skin allergies (=atopic dermatitis; a condition very similar to hay fever or asthma in humans-except the skin is the target organ in our pets). These diseases are characterized by variable degrees of itching, often combined with secondary infections. The allergies and infections can be severe at times and dramatically reduce your pets’ and your own quality of life. This can improve dramatically with proper management of the condition.

Ear Diseases: Ear disease is another very common reason to visit the vets. Up to 25% of pets suffer from otitis. Chronic ear infections can be very painful for the affected patients and frustrating for the owners. Merely treating the symptoms is often not enough, as they tend to relapse. Therefore, it is important to investigate the underlying, so called primary disease. Ear problems are most commonly caused by underlying conditions such as allergies and other systemic diseases. If not properly diagnosed and treated, they can result in chronic irreversible damage to the ear canal and associated tissue, which in extreme cases may even require surgical intervention. At CRS we believe that early and appropriate treatment of ear diseases is vital to improve or maintain quality of life and avoid surgery.

Bacterial skin Infections: Due to the development of multi-resistant microorganisms, antibiotics are not always as effective as they once were in treating infectious diseases. The pet equivalent of MRSA (the hospital super bug), called MRSP, is unfortunately fast becoming more important in veterinary medicine. Due to the problem of emerging resistance, it is important to use antibiotics only when indicated and appropriately. Adequate management of skin infections, including investigation and management of the underlying disease is therefore becoming more and more important.

Ectoparasite infestation: we routinely screen our patients for ectoparasites and are highly skilled in diagnosing and managing these conditions.

Fungal skin Infections: Fungal infections are very commonly found either as a secondary phenomenon in allergic patients (particularly yeast infections caused by Malassezia spp.) or due to dermatophytes (“ringworm” infection), which are more commonly seen in cats, guinea pigs and horses than in dogs. We are very experienced in dealing with all aspects of these conditions.

Claw diseases: Brittle claws can break and this can be a sign of a type of skin disease, rather than just trauma. Due to our expertise in this area, once certain conditions have been ruled out, in some cases a visual diagnosis can be made and treatment be started without the need for a painful toe biopsy.

Hairloss/baldness: Many conditions can cause pets to lose their hair, from itchy conditions causing self-trauma, to hormonal problems or inflammatory/non-inflammatory hair loss due to follicular diseases (e.g. parasitic, auto-immune etc). The list of differential diagnoses is very long but important clues in your pets’ history and clinical examination enable us to find the appropriate diagnostic tools to make a diagnosis and subsequently manage the disease specifically.

Auto-Immune Diseases: Some patients suffer from diseases, which cause the bodies’ own immune cells to attack certain cells in the skin. The spectrum in this category of diseases ranges from mild clinical signs, responding to relatively minor forms of therapy, to life threatening diseases, which need very aggressive treatment with potentially serious side effects. As these diseases are very rare, it is important to have specialist input to find a balance of effectively treating the condition, while trying to avoid serious side effects. Unfortunately, some pets diagnosed with these conditions are euthanized due to poor response to treatment or severe side-effects to the medication. In many cases, this can be avoided when specialist care is sought. At CRS we want to find more ways to manage these devastating diseases and improve quality of life for pets suffering from these conditions.

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